Dracula 5: The Blood Legacy  
by Phlebas
February 19, 2014


Ellen Cross, art restorer with rare blood disease. Moderately intrepid. Protagonist.
Adam Stoker, mysterious handsome guy with familiar-sounding surname.
Yanek, shady fez-wearing art dealer/forger.
Dracula, dark prince; vampire; dragon.


As you'll remember, Ellen has just stolen a case she believes contains a mysterious 18th (or was it 16th?) century portrait of Dracula. So we'll continue from there:

Dracula 5: The Blood Legacy is a mostly first-person adventure game continuing the story of Dracula 4: Shadow of the Dragon. We accompany Ellen Cross as she investigates the mysterious painting, undeterred by that corpse she found, and is inevitably caught up in a web of intrigue leading to Dracula himself. The game is well-presented - the voice acting isn't bad, the locations are nicely detailed and you can pan the view around freely. There's a good variety too, starting from the modern setting of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and ending - well, I'd better not say. But the atmosphere is effective and the sequence of environments parallels Ellen's emotional journey into darkness.

[take a blue pill and a red pill]

That emotional journey, however, presents a catch: we join her in the middle of it. If you have not played the previous game (as your humble reviewer has not), the effect is something like picking up a save point halfway through a game that someone else has been playing. You won't already know Ellen and while there are a few nice bits of character detail near the start (a conversation with her colleague springs to mind, balancing her instincts as an art restorer against her curiosity about the supernatural aspect) we don't really get a chance to get to know her before the plot takes over. Once that happens it's all sinister secret societies, ancient betrayals and hidden temples and while we learn more about the dark prince's character along the way there's less opportunity to know or care about our heroine.

[take a white pill, a red pill and a different red pill]

But maybe the puzzles will be enough to carry the game? That fancy-looking crate that Ellen stole looked interesting - no doubt we'll have fun getting it open.
Apparently she's already opened it. Maybe that was in the other game.
There are some enjoyable puzzles along the way, though - the inventory puzzles tend to be straightforward (find a recipe, collect ingredients from around the room where you found the recipe, mix ingredients.), occasionally tediously so (I'll have to use my card to enter. I'll have to use my card to enter. I'll have to use my card to enter.) but there are some rather lovely mechanical tableaux to play with and appreciate. One or two puzzles involve colours; none involve sound unless answering a ringing phone counts.

[take two white pills]

There is also an ongoing puzzle involving choosing combinations of tablets to manage Ellen's rare blood condition, but sadly that too often feels more like a chore. The condition (conveyed effectively by short hallucinatory sequences, visual disturbances and creeping red edges spreading into the screen) mostly flares up at predetermined points, even if you've just dosed up. Ellen refuses to take any tablets unless she's feeling at least a little ill, so you'll have to try quite hard to get her to run out before the very end of the game. And if you do manage to run out - you'll be docked 50 points (yes, the game has a scoring system. And achievements. Do these things make the challenge more compelling, the story more intriguing, the characters more dramatically fascinating?) and then suddenly find you have more medication. The inconvenience and disorientation caused by Ellen's medical state are real to us; the threat not so much.

And then it's over.

So: Should you play this game? Will you enjoy it? Well, it's actually a decent half a game. It has some memorable moments and a proper ending. But I'm afraid it is half a game. If you have the series in your blood and have played (and ideally liked) the previous entry in the series then by all means go ahead - you'll know Ellen already and her story is, I think, an interesting one. If Microïds see fit to publish the two halves as a pack (or better yet splice the two into a single game, though I would guess that's unlikely) then it's probably worth a try. Otherwise?



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